‘Sojourn in Espérance Bay’ was an investigation of the edibility of the Esperance landscape over time. Informed by Goldfields histories and the story of a French naturalist lost ashore on Pink Lake in 1792, hungry and delirious amidst a sea of wild foods, a hybrid dining tableau was staged and filmed in the same salt lake. The video consists of a series of still poses – each lasting a minute, being the time needed to sit for a 19th century photograph. The meal was assembled using borrowed objects and with community participants maintaining connections to the land and local food, suggesting other ways embodied cultural knowledge could be valued.
Along with the video an installation was exhibited in an empty historic shopfront in Esperance (and later at Fremantle Arts Centre), incorporating the domestic items and jars of preserved edible plants collected in Esperance and used in the film, a second video showing Super8 footage of Observatory Island (where the French landed) from sea, and a 1900s French stereoscope with 3D glass slides depicting how the town feeds itself today (you can see this being used in the excerpt…). Together they made up a kind of self-contained time-machine transporting audiences backwards and forwards through possible ways of living in this place.
Tessa Zettel is an artist, writer and design educator who works to imagine or enact other ways of living in the present moment. Her interdisciplinary projects mostly take the form of durational, participatory interventions in which a kind of ‘fabulist archaeology’ makes visible contested histories and possible futures. They involve opening up spaces of dialogue, new forms of exchange, and revaluing obscured cultural practices and knowledge.
Tessa is also a co-founder of Makeshift – a Sydney-based collaborative whose speculative site-based projects appeared in such exhibitions as If you were to live here… 5th Auckland Triennial (Fresh Gallery, Auckland), Primavera 2011 (Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney), IASKA SPACED: Art Out of Place (Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth), Sister Cities Biennial: Urbanition (San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery/Carriageworks), and In the Balance: Art for a Changing World (Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney).